About the John Jay Project


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The Selected Papers of John Jay is a multivolume scholarly edition of Jay’s papers currently being produced by a team of scholars at Columbia University for publication by the University of Virginia Press. The edition will consist of seven volumes, published at approximately 18-month intervals, of a wide-ranging selection of the most significant and interesting public and private documents and letters, written or received by Jay, annotated and interspersed with commentary as needed. The edition is designed to revise and complete work begun in the late 1950s by Richard B. Morris, an eminent Jay scholar and Columbia University professor, who supplemented the major collection of original Jay Papers at Columbia with copies of Jay documents secured from archives throughout the world. Morris and his staff published two volumes covering the era of the American Revolution and began work on a projected two additional volumes before his untimely death. The new project, administered by the Rare Books and Manuscript Room of Columbia University Libraries, began in November 2004 supported by a grant by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

Few leaders of the new American nation had more influence than Columbia alumnus John Jay (1745–1829), or could match his accomplishments and contributions in all three branches of government, at both state and national levels. A leading representative of New York in the Continental Congress, Jay became one of the American commissioners who negotiated peace with Great Britain, securing independence for the former colonies. Serving the new republic he was Secretary for Foreign Affairs under the Articles of Confederation, a contributor to the Federalist Papers, the first Chief Justice of the United States, negotiator of the 1794 “Jay Treaty” with Great Britain, and a two-term governor of the state of New York. In his personal life, Jay embraced a wide range of religious, social and cultural concerns, including the abolition of slavery.

While Jay’s peers recognized his profound influence as a statesman, most scholars of the American Revolution and early republic have depicted him as a man in the background. The Selected Papers of John Jay publication project is part of a larger campaign at Columbia to bring greater attention to Jay’s many accomplishments. Publication of this series will introduce a new generation of students and scholars to this founding father’s role in shaping the American government. It will place in context his domestic life and his legacy, including the roles of his articulate wife, of her extensive and influential family, and of their politically active sons, who solicited Jay’s advice in shaping their own careers of public service. It will also serve as a guide to the Papers of John Jay website, which was launched in 2003. This website provides access to images of more than 20,000 pages of Jay and Jay-related documents, and is available to the public at http://www.columbia.edu/cgi-bin/cul/resolve?AVE8231